A move to Asia can be challenging, financially rewarding, and expose you to one of the most diverse legal markets in the world.
With a raft of global financial institutions, a number of jurisdictions in close vicinity, and both in-bound and out-bound investment, it seems like there is always something happening.
The current “warm” spot in Asia is Hong Kong. Other markets like Singapore and Tokyo, while not quiet by any means, are reasonably well serviced by local lawyers and therefore demand for Australians is modest. Outside the major financial centres, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia do occasionally recruit
Australians, but their legal markets are much smaller.
Most roles in Hong Kong and beyond are in private practice, with in-house roles tending to go to local lawyers or those with quality experience. The firms operating in Asia tend to be global leaders, so when they recruit they focus on lawyers currently working in similar firms, i.e. the Australian top or second tier. Hong Kong and Asian employers are attracted to a more mature lawyer than those in a market like London, so lawyers with four to nine years of experience are in demand. Asian language skills, while not necessarily the determining factor for all applications, can be crucial to certain roles. As demand peaks, they are less relevant and, in certain practice areas like finance, they are generally not as important.
Current areas of demand include energy and resources, finance, corporate and insolvency, with roles around the mid-level more prominent. While front-end areas tend to be more commonly in demand, we are currently keenly seeking insolvency lawyers for a couple of clients and do sometimes see demand in employment law, which, in Hong Kong, is based on our local system.
With all overseas markets, if your current experience fits the above parameters, then either talk to an experienced recruiter about those markets in more detail or get in touch with your contacts there. If not, then an interim move to a brand name firm or a move into an area of demand (e.g. from commercial to oil and gas) would be a wise choice, particularly given the uncertainty of global financial markets at present and the likely increase in demand once those markets become more stable.